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St. James High JV football team knew it had positive COVID-19 cases, but still played Thursday

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St. James Football (copy)

The St. James High JV football team will be in quarantine for the next 10 days due to two positive tests on the squad. File/Hannah Strong/Staff

MURRELLS INLET — The entire St. James High School junior varsity football team has been placed in quarantine after two individuals tested positive for COVID-19, both Horry County Schools and those close to the situation confirmed to the Post and Courier Myrtle Beach.

The team was notified on Thursday prior to their game at Sumter High School, but the game went on.

According to multiple sources, the team was originally told to turn the bus around and return home, but received a call shortly thereafter that told them they could play as scheduled.

A St. James official said that Sumter was notified ahead of the game and that the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control "called the shots."

On Sunday, the Sumter School District contradicted the official’s claim, releasing the following on Facebook:

“After consulting with our nurses and out of an abundance of caution, all Sumter High School junior varsity football players have been placed under quarantine effective immediately. Unfortunately, when the St. James High School junior varsity football team competed at Sumter High School Thursday, school officials were not notified about positive COVID-19 cases on the opposing team. Our administrators and coaches have worked diligently to ensure our safety procedures are followed. While we are deeply concerned regarding the manner in which this matter unfolded, our top priority is to ensure the safety and well being of our students and staff.”

The SSD also sent a note to parents indicating that all JV football players would be excluded from school and team activities until Oct. 30.

The St. James JV team will also be in quarantine for 14 days.

According to a source on St. James’ campus, teachers associated with one of the positive tests have yet to be notified — causing significant concern among the faculty.

“It’s scary, there’s no reason to hide these cases,” a teacher said. “It’s not the student’s fault; it’s not the school’s fault; it’s not the teacher’s fault; it’s not even the district’s fault. What is the district’s fault is hiding the numbers, that’s unacceptable.”

The district has indicated that teachers have indeed been notified.

“Teachers of all quarantine students are notified and assist students with full-time distance learning during their quarantine period,” the district said in a statement.

According to sources, there are more than 70 individuals in quarantine across the school, which equates to roughly 5 percent of the school's population.

On HCS’ COVID-19 dashboard, the district indicates that there are zero active staff cases on campus — which one teacher debunked immediately.

According to the teacher, there are at least three positive staff cases, including one who posted about it publicly on Facebook. Those posts have since been taken down.

In addition, two athletics personnel weren’t able to be at Friday’s varsity football game due to testing positive.

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“I can’t even go into the same meeting with people that have actively been around students or staff that have tested positive,” a teacher said. “How can they control what they are exposed to? And then they expose the rest of us to it.”

A pair of teachers spoke to the need to quarantine for 10 school days once exposed — which erases all sick time allotted to teachers.

If the teacher is then exposed at home by their child, they have to quarantine for an additional two weeks.

That’s not something that many teachers can afford.

“We are actively trying to pool money together to try and help teachers that are having to quarantine, to help them pay their mortgages, their bills, food,” the teacher said.

Students in quarantine is not listed on the district’s recently launched dashboard, something that the teachers feel is an opportunity to hide potential infection levels on campus.

"The dashboard is a joke, it doesn't show what's really going on," a teacher said.

The district lists out the following categories, by school:

  • Active staff cases
  • Active student cases
  • Total active cases
  • Total historic cases
  • Active staff in quarantine

St. James High is currently and historically the district’s worst when it comes to COVID-19, with 16 historic cases in addition to eight current ones, according to the dashboard.

It was the third case for St. James High athletics in recent weeks, as the varsity girls volleyball team also had an individual test positive for COVID-19, putting that team in mandatory quarantine for 14 days.

The St. James High varsity cheerleading squad has also been under mandatory quarantine, with that time running out on Friday, allowing them to return to action — replacing the fill-in JV squad that received praise from St. James Athletic Director Billy Hurston on a Facebook post, saying "Sharks take care of each other!"

The influx in cases and HCS’ decision to stick with hybrid instruction despite the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control designating Horry County as “high spread” has caused significant uneasiness on campus.

With the addition of HCS Board of Education representative Sherrie Todd pointing the finger at teachers for bringing the coronavirus into the classroom due to extracurricular activities, and teachers are at their wit’s end.

“I’m pissed,” a teacher said. “I don’t want to get sick. I have a mother who is 78 years old, and I haven’t seen her since February.

“It’s part of it. But Sherrie came out with that letter, it was a slap in the face to us teachers.”

Reach Nick Masuda at 843-607-0912. Follow him on Twitter at @nickmasudaphoto. 

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